Education is the single most valuable gift that a woman can giver herself when planning for success—whether specifically for the attainment of career skills, generally for ease in interacting about ideas with a wide array of people, or outside the formal classroom where learning occurs through daily interactions with those around us. Success in a woman’s future endeavors hinges on being well-informed, well-prepared and well-aware of the world around them.

I owe much of my success to the teachers who motivated and encouraged me to challenge myself. Without them, I could not have achieved the success I have known. For example, my interest in math and engineering was cultivated by my eighth grade math teacher, Mrs. Aiello. She encouraged me to pursue my love for math and learn as much as possible. This positioned me to focus on STEM fields of study, currently a highly sought-after career track. Mrs. Aiello’s support of my interests led to both my undergraduate and master’s degrees in math. For me, math was a field that fed other fields and opened doors. It enabled me to become an Aerospace Engineering (Maintenance) Officer and later to pursue Systems Engineering Certification and the world of business through an MBA. The skills and analytical baseline provided by a foundation in math supported and expanded my horizons.

I firmly believe that the more knowledge a person possesses, the more opportunities they will have both in a career and in their personal life. Advanced degrees level the playing field between men and women, not only by increasing earning potential but also through the networks of people and the exchange of ideas.

Finally, not all education occurs in the classroom. As a lifelong learner, one of the most important lessons I have learned is the value of speaking the “language” of those around me. Gaining an understanding of the total person is essential—what are their backgrounds, where were they raised, were they an only child or the youngest of 12, do they like sports, do they have a hobby or children or pets, etc. The details of people’s lives mold them in different ways. As a leader, if you can understand the intricacies of the lives of those around you, you will relate better to people, communicate more effectively, motivate others, and achieve success as a team.